Maria Byrne death: Husband jailed for life for murder

Darren Byrne and Maria Byrne Image copyright Essex Police
Image caption Darren Byrne, 40, killed Maria Byrne, 35, at the couple's home

A husband who hit his wife over the head before dousing her body in white spirit and turning on a gas hob has been jailed for life for murder.

Maria Byrne, 35, died at the couple's home in Morgan Crescent, Theydon Bois, Essex, on 13 February.

Former stockbroker Darren Byrne, 40, killed her after she discovered he had been having an affair, Chelmsford Crown Court heard.

Byrne was found guilty of murder and arson and must serve at least 24 years.

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The court heard Byrne hoped his wife's body would catch on fire while he went for an hour-long dog walk.

Image caption Maria Byrne was killed at the couple's home in Morgan Crescent, Theydon Bois, in February

Returning to find his plan had not worked, he called the emergency services to say his wife was "burned".

In sentencing, Judge Charles Gratwicke told Bryne: "The effect of your savagery will live with [Mrs Byrne's family] for the rest of their lives."

He said Maria Byrne "remained living for 30 minutes" after he attacked her.

He described Byrne as "wicked" and added: "Nobody sitting in this courtroom listening to the evidence would have felt anything other than sickness and revulsion as to what you did.

"Not only did you extinguish Maria Byrne's life but you left her two boys motherless and her family devastated."

'Making bacon sandwich'

Mrs Byrne's mother Linda Biggs told the court in a victim statement: "Maria was an only child and we trusted her with Byrne, a man the family treated like a son.

"She was beautiful, loving, loyal, kind, gentle and funny. She was everything to us, our whole world. She was brought up surrounded by love and she was simply our darling girl."

The court heard that when Byrne called 999 he told the operator: "The stove was on and the frying pan's on the other side of the room. She's not breathing."

Byrne had told paramedics his wife had been making him a bacon sandwich and when he returned home she was dead.

Mrs Byrne's death was initially treated as unexplained but a murder inquiry started following a post-mortem examination which identified white spirit on her clothing.

A half-empty bottle of white spirit was also found in the garage, the jury heard.

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